Unicef agrees to drop ‘caste-based prostitution’ report

Sreelatha Menon

New Delhi, June 1: NGOs have won a battle on behalf of three castes in Madhya Pradesh which had been stigmatised by a report of the state’s human rights commission.

The Unicef-funded report called ‘‘caste-based prostitition’’ had said that women of these castes were prostitutes and then men mostly pimps.

Reportedly without any scientific data to back its claim, it had also said that 50 per cent of women of one particular caste were HIV positive. Now Unicef has said it would like to withdraw the report.

The issue was taken up by the Kannur-based Joint Action Council, a rights NGO, after The Indian Express reported the matter. Later, it was taken up by MP-based groups as well as Brinda Karat, general secretary of All India Democratic Women’s Association. Karat wrote to Unicef last month asking the agency to withdraw the report. Unicef wrote saying the concerns raised on the report ‘‘are legitimate’’. ‘‘Unicef also has reservations about the quality of the survey and its conclusions,’’ it added.

‘‘The study was undertaken by the Madhya Pradesh Human Rights Commission with Unicef providing financial support for what we hoped would be a useful contribution to women’s rights,’’ it said.

‘‘We were not involved in any way with supervision of the research but we take responsibility for not having guided its outcome,’’ it admitted. Unicef added that it has written to the MPHRC asking it to withdraw the report. Karat said in her letter that the MPHRC study ‘‘ostensibly meant for the welfare of the communities ends up in insulting and deriding them’’.

‘‘The concept of a caste-based survey is repugnant to human rights and democratic thinking as it is premised on a belief that there is something intrinsic to a caste which makes women prostitutes and men pimps,’’ said Karat.

Purushottaman Mulloli, convener of JACK, another NGO, said Unicef’s response reflects a change in attitude which must spread to other institutions so that issues such as HIV and prostitution are not highlighted in a way as to harm the people concerned.

Karat and Mulloli, however, said their task was not over as the report was yet to be withdrawn. AIDWA, JACK and the MP-based units of SEWA, Ekta Parishad and Sambhav are to meet in Bhopal on June 4 to to decide their next move. ‘‘We will also meet Chief Minister Digvijay Singh and ask him to get MPHRC to withdraw the report and apologise to the people harmed,’’ the NGOs said.

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Source: http://www.indian-express.com/ie20010602/nat3.html
Referred by: Mukundan CM
Published on: June 4, 2001
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